ST Engineering is partnering with Sumitomo and Skyports to use drones for transporting packages to ships docked off the coast of Singapore. The new uncrewed aircraft (UA) venture announced on February 13 marks the start of a nine-month pilot program aimed at establishing a drone network for carrying payloads of up to 7 kg (15.4 pounds) per flight.
UK-based Skyports, which is already conducting commercial drone services in other locations, will jointly run the beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight operations with ST Engineering, using the Singapore-based group’s DroNet technology. Japan-based trading group Sumitomo will help promote the new UA service, as well as include its own ships in the network.
ST Engineering (Pavilion G01) has tested and developed autonomous flight management solutions for BVLOS shore-to-ship deliveries for some time. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has provided some financial support for the plans, which also have gained backing from Wilhelmsen Ships Service.
According to the partners, uncrewed aircraft can speed shore-to-ship deliveries and reduce logistics costs compared with the use of launch boats. They say that the new approach, in development for the past 24 months, will also reduce carbon emissions.
Skyports is already active in uncrewed aircraft operations in Europe, the Americas, and the Asia Pacific region. It also participates in developing vertiports to support eVTOL air taxi operations, with Singapore viewed as an early adopter for such services.
“As home to one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore is the ideal setting in which to demonstrate to customers the potential for UA to transform maritime logistics by moving essential supplies in a more cost-effective and sustainable way,” said Sanjay Suresh, Skyports’ head of Asia-Pacific business development and operations.
In early 2019, Airbus conducted shore-to-ship delivery trials using its Skyways drone in partnership with Wilhelmsen Ships Service.